How to Manage & Recover from Super Bowl Overeating

Super bowl overeating

Eleven million slices from one national pizza chain, over a billion chicken wings, $227 million dollars in potato chips, and $1.2 billion on alcohol including beer.

Those are among the astonishing statistics that Morgan Korn, from ABC News, reports in an appropriately titled article, “The Staggering Amounts of Food Eaten on Super Bowl Sunday.”

About 40 percent of American households tune in to the Super Bowl. Football isn’t the only festivity on the menu during this early-February Sunday gathering: Super Bowl oftentimes involves crunchy, salty, sweet concoctions combined with alcohol…Sometimes in copious quantities, mindlessly shoveled down while rooting for a favorite team to win.

For many people, Super Bowl is one giant eating and drinking spectacle. Creative food commercials encourage us to indulge, alcohol companies promote their products as an almost mandatory part of watching the game, and many gatherings focus on big trays of sugary, empty-nutrient foods along with large kegs and 12-packs of soda.

Altogether, Super Bowl Sunday almost becomes an invitation to eat unhealthy foods until you’re full and then eat some more. Even with a modicum of self-control, the Super Bowl encourages overeating.

Worth noting: Overeating differs from binge eating, which is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Binge eating involves overeating with a loss of control over food.

People with binge eating disorder consume excessive amounts of food in a single sitting (such as during the big game) and subsequently feel guilt or shame. Long-term binge eating can adversely impact your health in many ways, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Please consult a healthcare professional if you believe you suffer from binge eating disorder or any other eating disorder.

Overeating Triggers

Numerous factors trigger overeating or binge eating. Satiety hormones including insulin, leptin, and ghrelin play a role. So do emotional and psychological factors. Food manufacturers spend billions of dollars to convince us to buy hyper-stimulating or hyper-palatable foods.

These sugary, processed foods activate neurons that impair taste perception, reward, and conscious control of eating. Manufacturers engineer the texture of these foods–loaded with sugar, fat, and salt–to make them easier to eat more quickly (so you’re more likely to reach for seconds or thirds).

Simply put, these foods can become addictive because they offer instant gratification and stimulate neurotransmitters like reward-triggering dopamine. The Lay’s, “bet you can’t eat just one,” campaign is shockingly accurate. At some point, these foods hijack your willpower and you can’t control yourself.

Many of those foods end up on Super Bowl Sunday tables. That sugar, fat, and salt combination increases our appetites, making us overeat and sabotage our health.

You needn’t succumb. Being healthy during Super Bowl Sunday (or any time of the year) doesn’t mean you need to be a wet blanket and ruin the fun or totally abstain from eating anything delicious.

While you might not win the award for the healthiest eating day of the year, neither do you need to shovel in third or fourth helpings of chips, dips, pigs in a blanket, and whatever other sugary, processed foods appear at your next gathering.

Strategies to Manage Super Bowl Overeating and Recovery

These 12 strategies can help you have a fun Super Bowl Sunday and not curse the scale, your favorite pants, or the alarm clock the following Monday.

  1. Host your own. While having friends or family to your place might feel like an ordeal, hosting also puts you in control over the event. You get to choose what food goes on the table. You might instead create a potluck and designate that everyone brings a particular dish. This takes some of the pressure off of you, but still ensures there is always enough healthy fare to slip into the mix. You’ll find plenty of fantastic, healthy ideas with our recipes:
  2. Get great sleep. Anticipation–for, say, your favorite team to win–can cut into a good night’s sleep. Research shows even one partial night of sleep deprivation – like going to bed at 1 a.m. and waking up at 5 a.m. or going to the bathroom repeatedly throughout the night – can create insulin resistance in otherwise-healthy people, setting the stage for obesity and type 2 diabetes. Find a sleep ritual and maintain it. This might mean a hot bath, chamomile tea, a calming book, and a sleep supplement if falling or staying asleep feels challenging. And yes, that ritual applies to Super Bowl Sunday! Call it a night when the game ends. (You’ll thank us Monday morning when your work alarm goes off!)
  3. Manage stress. While the occasion might seem carefree, you probably have a lot of stress building around Super Bowl Sunday. Maybe you haven’t maintained your New Year’s Resolutions well, work feels hectic, or you had a disagreement with your significant other the day before. That accumulating stress becomes a trigger for you to overeat, and particularly gravitate to sugary, processed foods. Find ways to de-stress. This might be as simple as taking five deep breaths before you reach for the chip bowl.
  4. Exercise before you indulge. Before you watch professional players, make some moves yourself. The game doesn’t start till mid- or late afternoon in most regions: Plenty of time to take a long walk or hike, hit the weight room, or take a quick HIIT training class. If you’re prepping for the big event, time can’t be your excuse not to workout with our MaxT3 program. You can get a full-body workout at home in just 12 minutes. And no, a solid workout does not give you permission to nose-dive into mozzarella sticks during intermission.
  5. Go steady before the big event. Even if you plan to knock out some heavy foods during the game, don’t let yourself starve throughout the day. Steady your appetite with easy meals and shakes rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. (Our Raspberry Smoothie whips up in minutes, but crushes your sweet tooth while keeping you full for hours.) Stay hydrated with plenty of filtered water, especially if you’ve exercised intensely or plan to imbibe during the game.
  6. Plan ahead. Take a few minutes to mentally prepare for what the big day might entail. That includes food, but also how you’ll interact during the big game. If you have a sugar-pushing buddy who insists you load up on chili cheese nachos or chug beer, set boundaries ahead of time so you stay on course. Write out your goals if necessary, such as I will only have five chips and then switch over to guacamole and raw veggies or I will cut myself off after two drinks. If someone else is hosting, bring one or two dishes to ensure you have at least a few healthy options on the table.
  7. Swap them out. With a little creativity, you can transform even the most unhealthy Super Bowl favorites into healthier alternatives. Some ideas to get you started:
    • Swap finger sandwiches for organic free-range turkey and sliced avocado in lettuce wraps
    • Swap chips and salsa for kale chips or raw veggies and guacamole
    • Swap sugary treats for almond butter fudge
    • Swap sugary sodas and fruity drinks for mineral or filtered water with lemon or lime
  8. Slow down. The Super Bowl lasts nearly four hours. Gorge at the beginning and you’re practically guaranteed to feel gross or have a stomachache by mid-game. Steady wins the race with eating during sporting events (or anytime, really). Plan small snacks throughout the game if possible. If you’re at someone else’s place, get a small plate and refill a few hours later if you’re still hungry. Remind yourself that this is not a Coney Island hot dog eating contest! Be mindful, and stay present with your company.
  9. Watch your alcohol. Imbibing can spell dietary disaster. You chug a few light beers or glasses of red wine as the game excitement builds up, a few nachos dunked in guacamole become more than a few, and before you know it, you’re in a tipsy carb coma. Avoid that slippery slope by pacing out your alcohol, and if you don’t drink, please don’t start! Keep mineral water nearby and aim for two glasses for every alcoholic drink. Worth repeating: Slow down and be mindful while you’re indulging.
  10. Cultivate your mindset. Some people watch Super Bowl for the commercials. Others are casual fans who simply enjoy the spectacle. But for some viewers (you know who you are), if your team is losing… Well, that can be a massive bummer that ruins the game and your peace of mind. Try to maintain the It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game spirit. While you want to root for your team, spending time with loved ones and friends will mean more in the bigger picture. Maintain a positive, calm mindset rather than blow your cool, and you’ll feel a lot better about yourself Monday morning.
  11. Get back on track. Speaking of Monday morning: This is not a permission slip for you to blow it on Super Bowl Sunday. However, if you indulged a little too much on the big day, don’t beat yourself up over it. A punishing mentality–I’m going to eat salads all week and do double workouts–doesn’t work. Acknowledge that it happens to us all and resolve Monday morning you’ll get right back on track with a protein-rich breakfast. Pre-make our omelet muffins for a delicious protein-rich, grab-and-go breakfast that’s ready to go when the alarm clock goes off.
  12. Remember your supplements. The right supplements cover any nutrient deficiencies you might have in your diet as well as boost your immune health so you’re less likely to get whatever bug might be going around on Super Bowl Sunday. The basic supplements that can keep you healthy during the game day or anytime include:

Please discuss these and other supplements to benefit your health condition with your healthcare practitioner. Never discontinue or modify any medications or other advice without your healthcare practitioner’s consent.

Super Bowl Sunday is a massive event fueled by the billion-dollar food industry that undoubtedly does not have your health in mind.

While the occasion encourages delicious food and drinks while you cheer your favorite team on, that doesn’t mean you need to succumb to sugary, processed foods that offer a few moments of blissful gratification but unfortunately spend far more time on your waistline while also damaging your overall health.

Create a new tradition this year that fosters delicious healthy food, exercise, and the right mindset as you gather with family and friends to watch the big game. You’re allowing yourself to be a healthier, happier person when you choose the right foods, but you’re also inspiring others with your example to maintain stellar eating habits during special occasions and throughout the year.

Have fun and enjoy the Super Bowl!